Executive Director of Passim talks PEAR Fund, aiding COVID-19 affected musicians

Executive Director of Passim talks PEAR Fund, aiding COVID-19 affected musicians

Passim, a Massachusetts club and school of music in Cambridge, is in the business of hosting live musical experiences for artists, no matter what stage of their career they are in! The nonprofit organization, established in 1994, is carrying on the mission of the historic Club 47 established back in 1958. Passim encompasses Americana, bluegrass, blues, Celtic, country, folk, jazz, klezmer, old-time, pop/rock, singer-songwriter, a cappella, world music and beyond. Many famous artists have played at Club 47 and Passim over the decades, such as Joan Baez, Shawn Colvin, Bob Dylan, Tom Rush, Joni Mitchell, Suzanne Vega, Muddy Waters and Jimmy Buffett… the club was even a place for blues musicians, like Paul Butterfield and Elvin Bishop, as well!

The nonprofit launched the program last week and has already raised more than $55,000…

While closed due to COVID-19, Passim has left a light on for their artists by hosting the Keep Your Distance Fest, a virtual music festival on YouTube in support of the Passim Emergency Artist Relief (PEAR) Fund. Artists like Vance Gilber, Zachariah Hickman, Aoife O’Donovan and Taylor Ashton are submitting videos of songs about how to survive these trying times. Songs are presented on Youtube as a playlist of musical performances from artists; at the same time, they entertain quarantined fans who are maintaining social distance by staying home. 

The nonprofit launched the program last week and has already raised more than $55,000 and sent out 44 grants for a total of more than $20,000! I had the extreme honor of chatting with Jim Wooster, Executive Director of Passim, to find out more about this fantastic organization and its love for their artist community.

How did Keep Your Distance Fest and PEAR come to fruition?

  • JW: As soon as it became apparent that venues were going to shut down, we began brainstorming ideas on how we could support musicians who depend on performance and teaching for their income. Setting up a fund to raise money and give out grants seemed like the most direct way to help. Asking artists to submit videos to help promote the fund has helped spread the word.

What has been most challenging about setting up this fundraiser?

  • No challenges so far. We have an incredibly supportive community and they’ve been eager to help.

Has Passim done any similar fundraisers? If so, what for and what were the results?

  • Not yet. We hope to be able to stage benefit events to help artists once the immediate health crisis has subsided. However, Passim runs the Iguana Music Fund. This grant program has given away more than $390,000 since 2008 to musicians and nonprofits in New England for career-building projects and for projects that provide community service through music. Each year we award about $40,000 through the program to dozens of musicians.

*You can find out more here*

Who can apply for PEAR Fund assistance and what are the qualifications for receiving aid?

  • Artists who have played Passim events or taught at Passim in the last 10 years. 

How will aid be determined and distributed?

  • We are going through applications, determining eligibility and then sending out checks directly to the artists.

How will artists be notified if they have been chosen?

  • We will email all applicants who have been selected for a grant.

How long will Keep Your Distance Fest and PEAR run?

  • For as long as there is a need and funds are raised!

What has been the community response to PEAR and Keep Your Distance Fest?

  • The response has been terrific! We have raised over $55,000 so far and have sent out 44 grants. We have also collected over 90 artist videos, which can be seen on our website right now!

We are all struggling financially at the moment. What would you say to someone who would like to contribute, but might feel now is not the right time?

  • Any and all amounts are extremely helpful and appreciated. We are all in this together and every dollar will help someone who needs urgent assistance right now.

How else might the community support Passim and its mission?

  • People can also donate to Passim directly. Instead of laying off our staff, we are choosing to pay everyone as if we were still open for business, including our Club and kitchen staff. We are confident that our community will support this decision and help us recoup the money we are spending to help our employees. 

I read that Joan Baez is an alumnus of Club 47, having performed there at the young age of 17, gaining a regular gig on Sunday afternoons. She recently posted a video of her singing John Lennon’s “Imagine”. How great would it be if she would perform a song for Keep Your Distance Fest?

  • It would be wonderful! Joan helped pave the way for singer-songwriters everywhere and I’m sure she would love to help them make it through this challenging time.

Tune into Keep Your Distance Fest (or make your own video):

Apply to receive emergency COVID-19 aid:

Donate directly to Passim:

Passim links: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Website

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